HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials say the way they count wolves is too expensive and falls far short of an actual population estimate, so they plan to switch to a model that uses information gathered from hunters.

Wildlife advocates say wolf numbers are declining and that switching exclusively to the patch occupancy model within three years could threaten the species' survival. They worry the data is too unreliable to be used to manage the population. Montana has used the model since 2007, but it primarily relies on wolf counts by its six wolf specialists across the state.

Federal funding that helped pay for the specialists' annual counts ended last year. Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist Bob Inman says the counts are misleading because they aim to verify a minimum number of wolves, not measure the population.

More From News Radio 1310 KLIX